by Valerie D. Perry
The lady in the Visitor Center reminded me that I was now on “Floyd Time.” More than a place, Floyd, Virginia is a state of being. Located four and half hours from Washington, DC; three and a half hours from Richmond, Virginia; and two and half hours from Charlotte, North Carolina; Floyd is nearby yet feels like a world away. This small town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a place where time stands still. In fact, time might even move backwards. Back to a time when strangers said “Hello” to each other and when the whole town gathered for a night of music and dancing.
DANCE – Friday Night Jamboree
Being in Floyd may let you escape the deadlines of your day to day life, but plan to get into town in time for the Friday Night Jamboree. Legend has it that back in the 1980’s the owner of the Floyd Country Store, then called Cockerham’s General Store, was in a bluegrass band. The band would practice in the store on Friday nights after it had closed. Hearing the music, people passing by would knock on the door to come in and listen. Eventually the band got tired of being interrupted so they left the door open. People continued to show up every week and a tradition was born.
These days, the Friday Night Jamboree kicks off at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $5, only available at the door, and go on sale at 4:45. Between 300 and 500 people come to the Floyd Country Store on any given Friday. Audience members can come and go throughout the night so a show never truly sells out. Seating is very limited so many people get their tickets early and place a sweater or cushion on their seat of choice before heading back out for dinner in a nearby restaurant.
The show starts with a Gospel Hour that opens with prayer. The dancing begins at 7:30 and ranges from freestyle flatfoot to two-step to square dancing. The small dance floor fills quickly as laughter and old-time music fill the air.
DINNER – Blue Ridge Café
Located in the former Floyd County Bank Building, a vault is still in place in the now Blue Ridge Café. Stop in for a quick bite at this casual eatery on Main Street in Floyd, directly across from the courthouse. If you’re feeling hungry, consider the John Wayne Burger: a half-pound burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches.
SLEEP – Chantilly Farm
Chantilly Farm is only six miles from downtown Floyd and less than three miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This festival ground is known most for its annual Bluegrass and BBQ Festival, but it stays open as a campground the rest of the year. It offers sites with full hookups for RVs, primitive or modern tent camping areas, and primitive bunkhouses. You haven’t heard quiet until you embrace the silence at Chantilly Farm.
BREAKFAST – Mabry Mill
A thirty-minute drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway will have you at one of the most photographed sites on the 469-mile scenic drive – Mabry Mill. Grab breakfast in the onsite restaurant before exploring the restored mill originally built in the early 1900s. Walk the half-mile “Mountain Industry Trail” through a blacksmith shop, past a moonshine still, and into the working mill. And don’t worry if you’re running late – breakfast is served all day.
EXPLORE – Stone Churches
Robert Childress was a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwest Virginia. After becoming a minister, Childress built six rock churches throughout the area. The churches are constructed out of native stones found here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A map of the church locations is available on stone-churches.com and in the Floyd Visitor Center. Cruising the country roads and finding each church creates an Instagram worthy scavenger hunt.
LUNCH – Bootleg BBQ
When in the South you have to eat barbeque. This food stand on the edge of downtown Floyd has its own secret-recipe-sauces available for purchase here and around town. The menu is limited but includes staples such as pulled pork sandwiches, baby back ribs, and coleslaw.
SIP – Blackwater Loft
This quiet, cozy coffee shop in downtown Floyd can be accessed via an outdoor staircase or via the spiral staircase inside notebooks, the town bookstore. The Loft brews with beans from local roaster Red Rooster Coffee. Relax and recharge with a coffee upstairs then stop in the Red Rooster retail shop located downstairs, behind the bookstore, for a bag of beans to enjoy at home.
5 Mile Mountain Distillery
Owners Kerry Underwood and Patrick Sisk are keeping tradition alive with Floyd’s first legal distillery since prohibition. They currently offer three varieties of moonshine: the traditional Sweet Mountain Moonshine (100 proof), Elderberry (80 proof), and Vanilla Plum (80 proof). All hooch is produced by the traditional methods of the surrounding mountains: cornmeal based mash heated in a copper still over an open flame.
Stop in for a tasting. A moonshine tasting is $5 or $7 with a souvenir shot glass. A cocktail such as their signature Elderberry Lemonade is $7 or $10 with a souvenir tumbler.
DINNER – Floyd Country Store
Warm up with a bowl of creamy tomato soup and a warm cheddar biscuit. Or cool down with a hand dipped ice cream cone or design your own soda float by choosing an ice cream flavor and a soda. The menu ranges from barbecue platters to soups, salads, and sandwiches. Most dishes are made from scratch and many ingredients are sourced locally. Cakes and pies are baked daily so save room for dessert.
LISTEN AND LAUGH – Floyd Radio Show
The first Saturday of the month, September through May, brings the Floyd Radio Show to the Floyd Country Store. The two-hour show features multiple musical acts and several comedy sketches. It is recorded live and made available as a podcast of the same name – a great way to experience Floyd when you can’t make the trip into the mountains. Tickets are $15 the day of the show or $12 in advance. They can be purchased in person or online at The Floyd Country Store.
The welcoming spirit of Floyd was best summed up by Janet Turner during her performance at the Friday Night Jamboree, “We hope ya’ll have a good time and ya’ll come back again.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valerie D. Perry is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Maryland. She has maintained a travel blog, The Road Lots Traveled, for the past decade and wrote the book “Sea More: Caribbean” a former #1 Bestseller in Caribbean Travel on Amazon.com.